Mubarak pulls the ‘kill switch’

Source — Renesys.

Thoughtful article in Salon by Dan Gillmor.

This isn’t the first time government has shut down access to the Internet during a national crisis, or ordered mobile phone companies to stop letting customers make calls and send text messages. Burma largely succeeded in closing off its media borders several years ago, and regimes around the planet have created harsh censorship systems that prevent the majority of their people from seeing information deemed unacceptable by the people in charge.

Now, the shutdown isn’t absolute. Some data is still getting in and out of Egypt, and circulating within the country. The reports are so sketchy, even from experts in the field, that it’s hard to know precisely what is happening. But Egypt’s shutdown of most communications to the outside world, and communications inside the country, is the most blatant abuse yet of this kind by a large power. And it’s Exhibit A in how the modern Internet, despite its heritage as a system where information would find its way around outages, has become increasingly vulnerable to choke points that governments and their corporate partners/subjects have become adept at using to restrict the flow of information.

The Internet isn’t the only way people use digital communications, of course. But most phone service in Egypt is mobile. So it’s trivially easy, unfortunately, to take mobile phone service off the air. In Egypt’s case, it simply ordered the providers—which operate at the government’s sufferance—to stop providing service. Vodafone and other mobile carriers, having no real alternative, complied–though we still might wish for an example of corporate guts in the face of dictatorial abuses. Oligopolies and monopolies are easy to tame.


Oh and btw this is the same ‘kill switch’ that Joe Lieberman would like to pull in the US.